Ski racing is a family affair, especially when the rider is 11 years old (or younger).
Dozens of these junior ski racers and their accompanying parents gathered at Powderhorn Mountain Resort for the annual Rocky Mountain Division U12 Championships over the weekend.
They traveled to Powderhorn from Steamboat Springs, Vail, and Aspen. They traveled from Eldora, Winter Park, Crested Butte and Durango.
Some were from Summit County while others were doing the ski tour from Flagstaff, Arizona.
“Yeah, this year we had races for Avery at Steamboat, Eldora…and we had a home race (at Winter Park),” said Becky Jacobson of Winter Park, referring to her daughter Avery who raced at Powderhorn last weekend.
“And Ski Cooper,” added her husband Daren Jacobson, who carried a huge backpack to the finish area at the foot of the Wonderbump trail.
“Last weekend we were in Telluride (for son Wyatt’s Rocky Mountain U10 Finals),” Becky Jacobson said, offering some insight into the dangers of parenthood in ski racing. “And we accidentally used expired sunscreen. So needless to say we got fried.
COWBELLS and a VUVUZELA
Filled with sunscreen, the enthusiastic Jacobsons brought their snow chairs to the Wonderbump finish area along with refreshments, extra clothes, a blue plastic vuvuzela horn and a cowbell – all to celebrate the four races of Avery at the U12 Championships in Powderhorn.
“There’s a lot of equipment, and it’s a lot of time,” said Daren Jacobson. “But we do everything for the children.”
He acknowledged that the sport of alpine ski racing is expensive.
“But there are ways to manage those costs,” he said. “We try to get creative with where we stay. With our way of eating. We prepare our lunches. Equipment. No matter.”
He said the family stayed in Grand Junction for the race weekend at Powderhorn, appreciating the convenience.
“It’s great to be back,” Daren said. “I used to do a lot of snowmobiling here when I was younger.”
Daren Jacobson was a competitive mogul skier in his youth (and beyond).
Becky wasn’t a competitive junior racer, but grew up skiing in Oregon.
But ski racing, she says, is another world.
“Really, he (Daren) is downplaying his efforts because he’s dragging stuff around everywhere,” Becky said. “Round trip to the ski area. Round trip to the music store. Then the races.
Jesse Johnson, Telluride’s ski dad, offered a big smile when asked about the logistics of his 11-year-old ski racer.
“There’s a lot at stake,” said Johnson, the father of ski racer Morgan Johnson. “Setting… for two pairs of skis because they have a GS and a slalom. And I also adjust other children’s skis.
But like the Jacobsons, Johnson said the effort was a labor of love for his family, including the trip.
“I think for all the people here, there’s a lot of travel,” Johnson said. “For us, on average, it’s five hours one way for a race. This is actually the closest race of the season for us.
A high school ski racer and college club ski racer, Johnson said ski racing requires a family commitment.
“You have to have parents who are willing to put in the time,” Johnson said. “We were at Sunlight two weeks ago. Then Crested Butte before that. And Vail.
Johnson and the Jacobsons were joined by a legion of other parents at the Powderhorn races on Saturday and Sunday.
As the bell rang and set a Swiss tone for the Alpine Championships, the junior riders tackled four different races over two days.
They contested two giant slalom races on Saturday and two slalom races on Sunday. All races were on the Wonderbump track.
Aspen Valley Ski Club‘s Caleah Lutz-Sladdin won the first GS, a tough 38-gate test the length of the Wonderbump race track. Team Summit’s Anya Leunig won the afternoon GS for the U12 girls.
On the boys’ side, Ski Club Vail dominated the first giant slalom, placing seven skiers in the top 10. Vail’s Calen White won.
In the second GS, Torin Knapp from Steamboat Springs took the top step of the podium. Second place went to Levi Hart of Eldora.
Max Anderson led the host skiers Powderhorn Racing Club with an 11th place finish in the Saturday afternoon GS.
“I think the first run (Saturday) kind of motivated me a bit,” Eldora’s Hart said. “I didn’t have a good race. I went last and the course was pretty tough. But I also made some tactical mistakes. So I tried to clean it in the second (race).
Hart, who was 10th in the morning GS, raced to a second-place finish in the afternoon.
“The second run went much better…I didn’t make any tactical mistakes,” said Hart, who turned 12 last month.
In Sunday’s slalom, Hart started with a top-25 finish before nearly taking the win in the second slalom.
“I was going really fast, I felt good,” said Hart, who had the fastest time to the last gate combination.
“Then that color right there was really tricky. It goes over the hill, and I just couldn’t hold it back. I had to stop and go back up a bit,” he said, quickly thanking his parents. for their support of his ski racing youth.
“My parents, every weekend, get up at 5:30 a.m. and we go to Eldora, my home mountain,” said Hart, who lives in Longmont.
“We have six races in the normal season and two more in the playoffs. They (parents Alicia and John Hart) go to each of them.
They were at Powderhorn for the U12 Championships.
Additionally, Hart said, “My dad is awesome…really awesome with waxing.”
Summit’s Leunig followed up his Saturday afternoon GS victory with another win in the Sunday morning slalom.
Sienna Fuller of Aspen won the women’s afternoon slalom.
In the men’s afternoon slalom, Vail’s Calen White won for the second time at Powderhorn.
“It’s intense as a parent,” Johnson said as he prepared to return to Telluride. He once experienced the exercise with a teenage skier a few years ago.
“At the beginning of the year, you are excited about the season. But at the end of March, you’re ready for the end of the journey,” Johnson said. “But looking back, that time in the car is one of the most memorable times because you have real conversations with your kids.”
The Jacobsons also packed up and headed home to Winter Park.
“Avery was so excited to be here,” said Daren Jacobson. “She had come out with a torn ACL last year (aged 10). But it has been a good year of reconstruction.
The junior ski races, coordinated by race manager Matthias Schmidt of the Powderhorn Racing Club, also featured the “Mikaela Shiffrin effect” with more girls (84) than boys (78) taking part in the U12 championships.
And in Saturday afternoon’s giant slalom, girls’ winner Anya Leunig of Team Summit posted the fastest time overall, faster than all the boys on the same course.